Et Cetera of Sports Media#6

Demarus Dye| BKD TV Insiders

The Return of Sports Media review for 2015 here on BKD TV, that we call Et Cetera of Sports Media & we have some big Sports media News, lets recap.

Bill Simmons contract has not been renewed by ESPN from Richard Deitch of SI.com

Bill Simmons has always positioned himself as an outsider. It’s an odd sentiment given he made his fame at the most established brand in sports media, but Simmons has always envisioned himself as anti-establishment, even as he built an in-house empire and became an integral part of the machine known as ESPN.

On Friday The New York Times broke the news—the more accurate description is that ESPN president John Skipper and its management team picked a great venue and a well-respected reporter to deliver the news—that ESPN would not re-sign Simmons when his contract expires in September. ESPN later released a statement to Sports Illustrated and other media outlets.

“I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons’ contract,” Skipper said in the statement. “We have been in negotiations and it was clear it was time to move on. ESPN’s relationship with Bill has been mutually beneficial—he has produced great content for us for many years and ESPN has provided him many new opportunities to spread his wings. We wish Bill continued success as he plans his next chapter. ESPN remains committed to Grantland and we have a strong team in place.”

Multiple calls, emails and ravens to Simmons (and his reps) had not been returned as of this writing.

The timing of the news is surprising given that Skipper has repeatedly expressed his interest in retaining Simmons, and did so again last week on a Denison University sports radio show. In September, Skipper told this to SI.com: “My interest is high in re-signing Bill. We like Bill. He has done good work for us. We continue to have a good collaboration, and I am anxious to have some discussions with Bill to see if we can continue to do things that work for ESPN.”

Simmons has been frustrated with parts of ESPN, including management, for some time. It’s been a slow burn, according to his friends. He was clearly dismayed by some of the projects he was involved in prior to this year, particularly on the television side. His experience on NBA Countdown was not a good one and his friends will tell you that he privately seethed last September when he was suspended by Skipper for three weeks after he called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a “liar” (among other things) on his podcast, The B.S. Report, following Goodell’s press conference Sept. 19 on the league’s ongoing domestic violence issues. Of significant importance, Simmons dared ESPN management to discipline him for those comments on the same podcast. That three-week suspension (which included two weeks without pay) was two weeks longer than what Stephen A. Smith received when, in the midst of discussing the NFL’s adjudication of Ray Rice on “First Take,” he suggested that women should examine their role in provoking domestic violence incidents. Smith was ultimately suspended for a week, but that came after Smith returned to the air to apologize and followed a p.r. statement that offered “a lot of discussion and reflection on the topic” but no adjudication. Suspensions have been doled out inconsistently for years at ESPN, and the process by which they were decided was convoluted (and slow). Simmons’s suspension was the new test case for speedier suspensions and, from what I understand, Simmons was furious about discipline that he believed was far harsher than what the crime warranted.

From the ESPN side: First, finances are always at play with decisions of this magnitude. One longtime ESPN staffer said Skipper’s decision was not surprising given the economic reality of two lagging quarters for ESPN and the salary Simmons would be seeking given his market value (likely in excess of $5 million per year).

“Grantland is an artistic success, but it is not close to making money,” said the ESPN insider. “That matters now more than ever in this new reality. Tough choices. Not to mention the personal history here, and his history of not playing nice in the sandbox. Seriously, the dude is talented, and his greatest legacy will be pushing 30 for 30, but he may shortly discover the power of this brand.”

Also, former executive editor John Walsh was the biggest buffer between Simmons and Bristol-based management and has long been his principal champion and rabbi. (Walsh hired him.) Walsh’s impact had been significantly reduced the last few years and once that happened the dynamic between Simmons and those back in Bristol changed. Simmons also alienated some producers and editors who disliked working with him. “Let’s just say the mood is festive,” said one Bristol-based staffer in response to the Simmons news.

Longtime ESPN chronicler James Andrew Miller, co-author of “Those Guys Have All The Fun” called Simmons’s Thursday appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, in which he ripped Goodell for his handling of Deflategate, “a tipping point” between Simmons and the company.

The fallout: Multiple sources at ESPN confirmed that there will be no changes to ESPN’s documentary series 30 for 30, for which Simmons served as an executive producer. That department continues on as is with two dozens projects in the pipeline. (The head of ESPN Films, Connor Schell, declined to comment through ESPN p.r.)

The Best Studio Show in Sports stays intact from Richard Deitch of SI.com

The best studio show in sports television history will stay intact for the next couple of years.

At its upfront event today at Madison Square Garden, Turner Sports will announce that Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith—the quartet that makes up TNT’s Inside the NBA—have signed multi-year extensions with the company.

The news is particularly significant given Barkley has told Sports Illustrated repeatedly over the years that he thought it would be a struggle to complete his current contract when it expired in 2016. Now NBA fans will see him long past that date. Turner would not release information about the lengths of the extensions, but it’s likely in the 4-5 year range for most.

O’Neal joined the studio show in 2011 following a 19-year NBA career and his first few years on Inside the NBA were, to be generous, a work in progress. But O’Neal has improved yearly, and one of his best qualities is his ability to make fun of himself. Turner Sports executives like the chemistry he’s developed with the longtime trio of Barkley (16th year as an analyst), Johnson (26th year as an NBA host on TNT) and Smith (18th year as a studio analyst for TNT) and committed to him with this extension.

ESPN Wild Card Game will be simulcast on ABC from ESPN Media Zone

ESPN will again televise a National Football League Wild Card playoff game during the 2015 season. The game, as well as ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown pre-game show, will also be simulcast on ABC for the first time. The NFL Wild Card Weekend is January 9-10, 2016.

Earlier this year, ESPN televised the first NFL playoff game in the company’s 36-year history. The Carolina Panthers’ 27-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals averaged a 12.5 household US rating and 21,678,000 viewers (P2+), according to Nielsen – the ninth most-viewed telecast in cable television history.

ESPN already produces Saturday night college football, NBA games and other sports events on ABC. The decision to simulcast the Wild Card game was made in conjunction with the NFL to maximize the audience across the two networks. Home to Monday Night Football for 35 years (1970-2005), the Wild Card will be ABC’s first NFL game in 10 years, since Super Bowl XL on Feb. 5, 2006. During the regular season, ESPN’s Monday Night Football games are available on over the air stations in the primary markets of the participating teams.

ESPN’s MNF team of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and sideline reporter Lisa Salters will call the Wild Card game, as well as the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl (Jan. 31, 2016) from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Pete Rose as a MLB Analyst for FOX Sports from FOX Sports Press Release

Pete Rose watches “Inside the NBA,” the postgame show for NBA on TNT broadcasts. The banter between analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal, Rose says, “is very entertaining to me.”

Could Rose be baseball’s Barkley?

FOX Sports is about to find out.

Rose will serve FOX as a guest analyst for the MLB on FOX pregame show on FOX and FOX Sports 1 and will also appear on “MLB Whiparound,” “America’s Pregame” and “FOX Sports Live” on FOX Sports 1.

“I enjoy talking baseball, and that’s what this is all about,” Rose said Thursday. “Enjoying the game of baseball, sitting in the green room watching two or three games, getting on TV and talking about it. It’s right up my alley, I think.”

FOX officials say they are hiring Rose for his on-air presence and that he will make for compelling television regardless of how one views his controversial past.

The network’s move comes at a time when Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader with 4,256, has officially requested that new Commissioner Rob Manfred lift his lifetime ban from the sport.

Rose, who turned 74 on April 14, was banished in 1989 for violating Rule 21(d) while managing the Cincinnati Reds. The rule states that any player, umpire or club or league official or employee who bets on baseball shall be declared permanently ineligible.

Manfred recently told CNBC that he plans to give Rose’s case a “full and fresh look.” The new commissioner’s predecessors, Bud Selig and Fay Vincent, had denied Rose’s requests for reinstatement.

FOX, a broadcast partner of Major League Baseball, did not require the sport’s permission to hire Rose. But network officials said they made baseball fully aware of their decision to audition Rose and then sign him to a contract.

Rose said that he is not joining FOX with the idea that it will help him gain reinstatement.

“I don’t even worry about that. I’ve never thought about that,” Rose said. “I’m just trying to give back to baseball. Hopefully people will watch and I’ll make some good points that will help them understand the game more.

“I’m not concentrating or worrying about reinstatement. I’m worried about working, having fun. This will be fun for me. It won’t be like work. That’s the way I look at it.”

Rose joked, “I always felt that I had a face for radio,” but he does not lack broadcast experience. He recalled that he hosted a nationally syndicated radio show for about eight years and said that talking sports and conducting interviews are not new to him.

Scott Van Pelt Sings Extension with ESPN & Will Take Over Midnight (ET) SportsCenter as Solo Anchor from ESPN Media Zone

ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt has signed a multiyear extension that will see him become the solo anchor for SportsCenter’s weekday, midnight (ET) edition. Scheduled to start his new role in late summer, Van Pelt will put his own, unique spin on the day’s news and highlights while offering the commentary, guests, interviews and insight fans have come to expect from the host of ESPN Radio’s SVP & Russillo.

The announcement was made today at ESPN’s annual Upfront presentation in New York City, where the network showcases upcoming programming in front of an audience of advertisers and media buyers.

The midnight show will feature Van Pelt’s outgoing and authoritative personality and his signature perspective on the sports world. Popular elements of his radio show, like “One Big Thing,” will be incorporated into the hour-long telecast. Van Pelt will continue to host ESPN golf coverage in addition to other assignments but will no longer do his radio show once the midnight show begins.

Mike & Mike in the Morning moving to NYC & gaining a 3rd host from Sports Business Journal

“Mike & Mike” is going to add a third person to its on-air cast this summer and relocate the show to New York City in the winter, two of several tweaks planned for ESPN’s popular radio show.

Molly Qerim is leaving NFL Network to move cross-country and join morning radio show hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. This marks the first time the show has added a permanent third voice since Greenberg and Golic first started working together in 1998, when Greenberg was a substitute host. He became the show’s permanent host in December 1999.

The show plans to move from its current Bristol location to New York City around the Super Bowl. The move, which is said to be pushed by President John Skipper, has the potential to bring higher profile guests into the “Mike & Mike” studio.

ESPN declined to comment. NFL Network acknowledged that Qerim is leaving next month. Executive producer Eric Weinberger emailed: “We’re sad to see Molly go, but we are appreciative of all her hard work for the NFL Media Group. We wish her the best of luck.”

“Mike & Mike” has proved to be a successful franchise for ESPN, which started simulcasting the show on television in 2004. It now is on ESPN2 every weekday morning

ESPN insiders are looking to tweak the show to ensure that it does not become stale. The addition of Qerim and the move to Manhattan are two steps that will breathe new life into the 15-year-old show.

Qerim is leaving her job as one of the hosts for “NFL AM,” NFL Network’s daily morning show that has gone on hiatus until the preseason starts. Its last show was Friday, and NFL Network executives plan to make some subtle changes to it when it comes back.

Qerim has had on-air roles at CBS and covered the UFC on ESPN, the former Versus and Fox Sports 1.

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